It’s hard to think about our parents not being with us one day. However, it is even harder to make the appropriate arrangements for them in a critical situation if there’s not a game plan in place. That’s why it is so important to have an advance care plan strategy for your parents.
When my dad went into the hospital, we didn’t realize the severity of his condition and I was completely lost. I didn’t know what hospital his medical plan covered. What military documents we needed for his burial or that he cancelled his Life Insurance two years prior to his sickness.
My father was in the hospital for over two months, and as I made each medical decision, I prayed that my choice did not lead to his demise. Thankfully, my father at least made me the Executor of his estate before he went into the hospital, and I knew what to do if he needed to go on life support. Nonetheless, I wished we would have taken time as a family to discuss his future health care needs.
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day – A day set aside to encourage all of us to consider important advance planning end of life health care wishes. It’s an opportunity to begin the process of documenting those wishes before a stressful health crisis arises, in your home. So, I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you 4 Tips on Discussing an Advance Care Plan with Ageing Parents by Dr. James Mittelberger.
- Start with your loved ones. Honest communication can help families avoid the stress of guessing what a family member would have wanted. You may find that you and your loved ones may see some things differently. That’s okay. Be open with each other and focus on understanding the views of those you love.
- Think about what is most important to you. What are your greatest fears, hopes and goals? Who would you prefer to make decisions on your behalf with your physicians if you could not? How sure are you of your choices? Do you want your chosen proxy to have leeway to change your decisions? Discuss these topics with your loved ones to reach a shared understanding of your desires.
- Make it official. Once you’ve had the conversation, formalize your decisions by putting them in writing. There are several ways. An advance directive can help describe your medical wishes when you no longer can. Special medical orders can be developed with your doctor. Finally, a health care proxy identifies your health care agent—the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes.
- Get help. You can find valuable resources to help you think through these issues and make decisions more manageable at theconversationproject.org and agingwithdignity.org.
Dr. James Mittelberger has served as Chief Medical Officer of Optum palliative and hospice care business since 2010. During this time, the organization has achieved CHAP accreditation and expanded its palliative care programs. He serves as a thought-leader for palliative care development within UnitedHealth Group organizations.